Startups carnival 2008 – judging the next generation of startups

The energetic Vishal Sharma of VS Consulting Group is running a Startups Carnival over the next two weeks, bringing together a promising field of Australian technology startups. I am a judge for the carnival, together with Justin Davies, and Duncan Riley of Techcrunch fame – bios for the three of us are here.

Detailed applications from 23 Australian startups giving insights into their strategy and situation have been received – the full list is here. I’ll keep you posted on some of the insights and results.

How to dodge tax sensibly

We are currently hiring a new finance/ admin person. One of the impacts of online job classifieds is that it is far easier to apply, and so you get far more applications than when people had to write and post a letter. For another position we’re advertising, for an Extremely talented office/ events/ digital media assistant, we’ve received over 150 applications in the last five days – a few very good, and many just not worth looking at.

However there are occasional compensations for the work of going through many resumes. One application for the finance/ admin position included the following in her career history:

XXXXXXX Finance Service in China

(a professional financial consulting company, handling tax dodging sensibly and regular accounting operating for clients)

As an accounting clerk/ admin officer

Ahem.

Great review of Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum in Sydney Morning Herald

An article in the Sydney Morning Herald titled Facebook up to it by doyen technology journalist Graeme Philipson gives a great review of the Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum from last week, excerpted below.

Until now, Web 2.0 applications have mostly affected individuals. Companies and government organisations have largely retained more traditional methods of communication. The primary collaborative technology for most organisations in the modern world has become email, which is very much a Web 1.0, or first generation, internet application.

That is now changing. Web 2.0 applications are increasingly finding their way into the enterprise. This phenomenon has, inevitably, been dubbed Enterprise 2.0. That term was invented last year by Harvard Business School professor Andrew McAfee, who has emerged as something of an international authority on the subject. Last week I heard a remarkable presentation by Professor McAfee on the state of play with Enterprise 2.0 worldwide. His talk was beamed in via Skype from Orlando, Florida, where he was attending an enterprise search conference. He spoke to 200 of us assembled in a conference room in Sydney’s Luna Park to discuss Enterprise 2.0 in Australia.

The event I attended where we heard Professor McAfee’s words of wisdom was the grandly named “Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum”, run by Sydney company Future Enterprise Network (FEN). FEN (futureexploration.net) is run by Ross Dawson, who has become one of Australia’s leading internet gurus in recent years. He also runs regular events on the future of media.

In addition to the insights from Andrew McAfee, the article covers the points raised by Euan Semple, who drove the BBC’s move into social media, and the many real live practitioners of Enterprise 2.0 who are in Sydney. It discusses the reluctance by some to embrace these technologies, but also suggests that this shift is inevitable. This is probably the best one-stop review of the event – have a read!

BRW Digital Edition: new-style journalism and some insights into Web 2.0

BRW magazine’s annual Digital Generation Flagship Edition came out today. It’s an excellent report and review of the digital space in Australia. Foad Fadaghi, the technology editor of BRW, has come to the media business from the research industry, having held senior analyst and director positions at Frost & Sullivan, Jupiter Research and IDC. This way of looking at the world results in the BRW Digital issue showing how journalism at its best is becoming a lot more like analysis, creating real value-add and insights that can’t be found elsewhere.

Data in the report (with a few snippets available here) includes market shares in online publishing (Google #1 at A$389 million with 89% growth), relative online ad revenues (e.g. NineMSN earns $99 million), surveys of corporate activities in online advertising (e.g. 37% of companies measure their online advertising ROI), shares of online social networking advertising (MySpace wins at 75%), and far more, complemented by a neat visual map segmenting the players in the Australian digital media market.

The report’s article on Web 2.0 draws extensively on an interview with me, with quotes from me as below. The article goes on to cover in more depth some of the players in the space.

The costs involved in web 2.0 development are so low it has spawned a large number of small one and two-person companies that can be profitable with a small user base, Future Exploration Network chairman Ross Dawson says. This means web 2.0 development is unnoticed by venture capital and other investors.

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Will libraries disappear in 2019?

Slate magazine has published a very nice slideshow titled “Borrowed Time” about the past and future of libraries. On the final slide it refers to the Extinction Timeline created by What’s Next and Future Exploration Network, where we had put 2019 for the extinction of libraries. Slate writes:

Ross Dawson, a business consultant who tracks different customs, devices, and institutions on what he calls an Extinction Timeline, predicts that libraries will disappear in 2019. He’s probably right as far as the function of the library as a civic monument, or as a public repository for books, is concerned. On the other hand, in its mutating role as urban hangout, meeting place, and arbiter of information, the public library seems far from spent. This has less to do with the digital world—or the digital word—than with the age-old need for human contact.

Absolutely we are shifting into a world where experiences and physical interactions are becoming more important than ever. For example, shopping in shops will never disappear. We will create new spaces where we can meet and interact. We are yet to see whether the spaces where people spend their time are those based around books and collected information.

Lloyds TSB pilots social media

James Gardner, head of innovation at Lloyds TSB, writes consistently on his blog Bankervision, disclosing some of the key issues involved in innovating in a major bank. In a recent post New ways of collaborating at the bank, James writes about how Lloyds TSB is piloting social media such as blogs. Some excerpts from his below show how blogging can change how corporations work.

We have one blog, for example, that documents the trials and tribulations of a member of the team that is implementing the social media pilot for us. Along the way there have been a couple of roadbumps, of course, and this particular blog offers the opinions of the team on the ground as things have gone wrong. It is a very positive and welcome read. Quite often, one doesn’t have a deep understanding of the real issues that caused the problem in the first place. Sometimes, you want the details without all the unpeeling that goes on before you can get them. This is a blog that does that.

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Interview on the state of applying Web 2.0 to organizations

In the wake of the Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum, Smartcompany magazine has published an interview with me titled Web 2.0: Our winning ways. It begins:

Entrepreneur Ross Dawson is a leading international expert on the way businesses are using web 2.0 in Australia – and he has good news.

After lagging behind our international counterparts in the enterprise 2.0 stakes, Australia is starting to catch up in its use of blogs, wikis, social networks, social search and virtual worlds.

Ross tells Amanda Gome what’s hot, how businesses are benefiting – and what’s destined for the 2.0 dustbin.

A few brief selections from my responses to the interview:

At last I am very encouraged. The response from people at the conference shows there is a lot happening. Up until now organisations have been shy about putting up their hands and talking about what they are doing. Up until now there has also been disparate things being done by different users in different departments. But now things are being squarely addressed by executives at the top of the company so people are prepared to talk about it.

Companies are striving to create more value from the participation of their employees, customers and suppliers by using web 2.0.

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An Enterprise 2.0 Governance Framework – looking for input!

From a couple of months before the Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum held last week, I had been hoping to create some kind of governance framework or implementation framework for Enterprise 2.0 that would be useful at the event.

Last year I created our Web 2.0 Framework, which has now been downloaded around 40,000 times and I gather been used by quite a few organizations in their planning and strategy. This time I wanted to create something that would be useful to help organizations understand and address both the risks and business value of Enterprise 2.0 approaches.

What I have seen in most large organizations is that senior executives’ amorphous understanding of the risks in Enterprise 2.0 has overwhelmed their equally fuzzy grasp of their potential to create business value. A governance perspective articulates and responds to the risks to the business, and also ensures that value is not left on the table – a very important aspect of executive accountability.

In the end I didn’t have time to do the task justice, but quickly pulled together a rough framework to use in my kick-off presentation for the Forum, as below.

e2governanceframework.jpg

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Enterprise 2.0 is more about culture and people than technology

In the wake of the Enteprise 2.0 Executive Forum, Peter-Evans Greenwood, CTO of Capgemini Australia, has written in considerably more detail on his thoughts on culture and generational change, which he and others spoke about on the final panel on the path forward.

I have a theory. It seems that most people learn something in their early to mid 20s, and then spend the rest of their career happily doing the same thing over and over again. …. Once they’ve established what it is they do they just want to keep doing it, hoping that the world will remain as it was in their early adulthood.

If change is the driver in our organizations, but our organizations are resistant to change, then the biggest challenge we face in not technical but the strategy we use to manage change. It’s quite easy to define a technically and economically possible solution that would provide a boost to our business, or even deliver a step change in capability. But if we cannot get our organization to deliver and then adopt the solution, all our work will be for naught.

So what does this mean for the IT department? No matter how important our success is to the success of the company as a whole, IT is a cost center; value is created at the business coal face, not in the IT department. It’s not our job to deploy the new Enterprise 2.0 solution that will revolutionize the business and then force the business to change. We need to focus on the users, rather than thinking in terms of technologies and IT assets, understand the challenges they are facing and provide them with tools and techniques that they can use to innovate themselves. IT as facilitator rather than asset manager. Or as I heard in the Enterprise 2.0 Executive Forum the other day, give them they structure they want and focus on managing the flow rather than trying to force them to do something a particular way.

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Logo competition for DataPortability.org: how to get the best

I love this kind of thinking. DataPortability.org, the extremely important web initiative I have written about before, needs a logo. Redhat claims that its existing logo is too similar to theirs.

Chris Saad, the chair of DataPortability.org, has launched an open competition to design the new logo, with the winner determined by open voting on the web from a short list selected by the steering group. This being a highly prominent initiative that is potentially enormously valuable to the whole ‘net community should attract some talented people. However Chris has also got a whole host of prominent people and companies who support the initiative to kick in prizes, to in fact make this a very attractive proposition to the winner. Prizes currently offered (with more continuing to come in) include:

dplogos.jpg

Initial submisssions

Current prize list:

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